19 March 1987

IUSC Working Party on Free Text Retrieval

Membership of this new working party is a little more broadly based than that of the previous IUSC gesture in this direction; i.e. in addition to J. Duke (Leeds), D. Lindsey (Aberdeen) and me, it has Peter Willett (Sheffield), who is a real information scientist, Colin Edwards (Ag & Food Research Council) and Anne Ford (Leeds Poly). It is chaired by Richard Bland (Stirling), who is ESRC representative at IUCC and a recent convert from sociology to computer science.

The first meeting necessarily accomplished little besides delineating an area of interest and possible activity. The fact that at least one major directory of all software in this area already existed (unbeknownst to the previous working party) meant that most of the usual spadework has already been done; it was agreed that some background reading was needed by all members before manufacturers should be approached. There was some agreement for the proposal that a clearer idea of possible application areas for the software were needed; little for the suggestion that we would do better to wait on/ contribute to the emergence of text facilities in SQL-2. It was also agreed that something like the forthcoming INGRES deal would be highly desirable, if feasible.

Other tidbits I picked up:- Leeds have been very happy with their version of Status, but would still rather have bought Basis. Sheffield obtained ASSASSIN (which has now been completely re-written and is supposed to be very good) virtually free. F.N.Tesky, now at Brighton Poly, has developed a low level software interface to Status. Strathclyde has an Alvey project looking into text searching hardware.

It was agreed that the next meeting would be in London, thank God.